If you are polyamorous and love the idea of compersion but still struggle with it, you are not alone. Here are some letters from poly folks who are wondering how to be the welcoming and understanding partner they want to be.
I loved the whole unlimited idea of polyamory and knew it was what I was as soon as I encountered the option. I was, of course, thinking of ME—it’s a lot more difficult for me to accept my partners as being free. I naively believed it would be an easy ticket away from sexual jealousy, but really I was thinking of jealous women. But I’m the jealous one! How can I change and be the man I thought I was??? – Lawrence, 35
I want to be happy for my husband. He is dating a much younger woman and she hangs on his every word. It drives me batty. I can’t see what he sees in her. Except sex, of course, and that is supposed to be okay. We have a longstanding arrangement that we date for sex but keep emotional commitment between each other. I had a very frank attitude towards my imperfect, older, pleasure-giving body, but now suddenly I feel like a bag of potatoes with big pores and varicose veins. How can I be happy for him when I feel suddenly sexless? – Vanessa, 57
I secretly pretend to feel compersion. Jealousy? What’s that? I’m so evolved now. But the truth is inside I fall apart when my girlfriend has a date. I obsess over images of her on top of whoever, wonder if his cock is huge, fear that she will fall in love. On the outside, I act happy for my lover’s lovers, wishing pleasure on the ones I love. But that’s not the whole truth about where I’m at. How long does it take for jealousy to stop? I’ve been poly for ten years and have not really dated monogamously. – Kip, 29
What Is Compersion?
Compersion is a word used a lot in the polyamorous community. It is loosely defined as the opposite of jealousy: feeling happy for a partner’s pleasure, whether sexual or romantic. It is considered the ideal place for everyone when it comes to poly love—if we reach a place where we are happy for our partners’ sexual happiness, then we don’t have to experience negative emotions. We don’t have to sabotage our relationships or our lovers’ relationships. We are participating in affirmative, pleasure-centered, positive, ethical, personal and community standards.
We’re SUPPOSED to feel compersion. We are, after all, open minded, open hearted, sex positive, and want what’s best for our lovers. Right? Plus, we are superior to those dark-age Neanderthals who think they own their lovers like property.
So why isn’t compersion coming naturally to us the way it does to the rest? Here’s how you can get closer to compersion and away from toxic jealousy.
How to Get Closer to Compersion
Understand that Compersion Is not Automatic or Easy
It’s a myth and misconception that poly people don’t experience the same messy love as anyone else. All humans have the capacity for lying, cheating, stealing, jealousy, rage, violence, revenge, impulsive behavior, cruelty, all isms from sexism to racism, and any other dark emotion or action. We are not naturally superior.
Sure, compersion comes easier to some people than others. And some people find it easier to tell the truth or control their frustration than others. But it is not magic and automatic. You are not alone in the poly world feeling jealous. The difference is, poly people have chosen intentionally not to be controlled by jealousy. You could say we are striving for compersion as an ideal!
Choose Compersion with Intention
Presumably you made that choice when you decided to live poly. But it is an intention that must be renewed constantly.
Maybe you felt no pain as long as your wife was dating men who couldn’t hold a candle to you. But now that she is dating a famous, highly respected billionaire with a baseball bat between his legs, you are jealous as fuck.
You have to practice reaching compersion in different circumstances. Sometimes it comes more easily at certain times. Maybe you’re almost there but something derails it unexpectedly. Maybe you’re seldom there, but you keep practicing to reach it. It’s a journey.
Unpack Your Jealousy
A good technique from mindfulness practice and from good therapy is understanding our emotions. Jealousy is natural, but why? You weren’t jealous of one paramour but you are now—why? You secretly hate your wife’s new girlfriend—why?
Maybe she’s much younger than you are and has perfect thighs, and you feel inadequate suddenly. Maybe you’re afraid this time that she will leave you and are questioning the strength of your relationship. Maybe you aren’t dating right now, and it sucks. Maybe you just miss her because you aren’t spending much time together.
Whatever it is, you can’t really address it until you unpack it. So start being honest with yourself about WHY, when you feel that jealousy rising.
Change Your Arrangements
Every poly relationship has a different set of arrangements. Some have a sex-only policy for the open door. Some date together—her date is yours. Some have an off-limits menu for others. Some say their partner can date women, but not men. Some accept that the husband has a mistress, but they don’t want to divorce and decide to accept it. There are a million arrangements.
Maybe the arrangement you have is not the right one for you or for the relationship. Maybe you can’t feel compersion about her declaring her undying love of New Guy when you didn’t agree to this in the first place—you thought it was just sex you were both seeking outside.
Restore Your Intimacy
One way to reconnect when you feel jealous and shunned is to work on your relationship together. If you aren’t having much sex together and feel you’re growing apart, it is easier to feel sorry for yourself than to feel compersion for your partner’s bliss.
Poly people have troubles in their relationships, but having security, trust, communication, and connectedness, plus good sex, makes us a lot less threatened and better able to deal with negative emotions.
What is your experience with practicing compersion? Please share!